Friday, November 28, 2008

The Guest Room

Months ago I posted before and after renovation photos of the Mérida house. I now see I didn’t post them well, but I was just learning how to maneuver the blog page, insert photos, captions, etc. I am getting the hang of it now.

I didn't post photos of the guest room upstairs. Maybe that’s because I was unsure how to make good usage of the room. One of my ideas was to rent the room to people who come to Mérida for dental work. My dentist has medical tourist clientele, and often they seek comfortable yet reasonable lodging during the month or so they stay here for treatments. But I felt the room was not fancy enough to rent to gringos. I have a tendency to like things Mexican. Gringos seem to like more American creature comforts.
There is a private, or at least separate, entry to the guest area upstairs. After coming through the wrought iron gate at the street, through the carport, outside around the kitchen to the patio, you wind around to the rear entrance through an ornate wrought iron gate. The stairs are reminiscent of a pyramid climb, they are so steep. It seems funny that the Mayans, so short in stature as they typically are, would have these giant steps everywhere that practically require a climb on all fours.
Upstairs there is an open air shaded patio. At 8 ft. the ceiling is comparatively low, once you are accustomed to the 25 ft and 16 ft ceilings in the rest of the house. The walls are aqua and the ceiling is sky blue inside and out. The patio is fenced in to keep out intruders who might be roof hopping or wild animals prowling. There is additional space that is just begging for some creativity. Perhaps some big potted plants, a table and chairs with an umbrella, or better yet, a little palapa. There are already hammock hooks out there, but the sun is brutal. On the roof we have the solar paneling set up also, but the roof is big so there is room to move.

There is usually a nice breeze up there. (Albeit in the summer an extremely fiery hot one!) There is a good view of the tall coconut palms a block away at La Ermita Park and the other giant fruit trees in the neighborhood. Two hammocks are already hung on the patio. There is a table and chairs set up.

Inside the room are a double bed, a hammock, a small dresser, a stereo, a little couch set, and an area to hang clothes. The bathroom has a blinding pattern of green and white tiles, but it is functional with hot water shower, toilet and sink. The only thing missing is a mirrored medicine chest, I’ve been told.

I enjoy spending time up there because it feels airy and open. It is a good little getaway. So far it has accommodated four sets of houseguests. Some of my friends and family have threatened to come down to visit. I know the economy is a mess and folks are tightening up their purses, but at some point you have to say “Screw it, let’s go have some fun.” Don’t you? Or is that just me? I thought I would just show you what your hideaway looks like if you decide to come down.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Commando Update

Left to right: Sak Boox, Moka, Lorenza, Busmo y Mokito.

The time has come for an update on the Commando of Cats. It has been a wild couple of weeks around here, starting with November’s mid-month full moon.

First, there were numerous rescues. The mamey tree in the patio is the portal the big cats use to get to the other side. The fruit tree is tall, full and perfect for climbing. They climb to the first branch, easily step to the 15 ft. high cement wall covered in broken glass, and delicately walk to the rooftops and open lots of the abandoned meat packing buildings next door. One morning the kitties decided it was time to join the big boys. Little Lorenza and Sak Boox ran up and came back down. Busmo went part way up. But Mokito had to go up so high the branches got too small for him to cling on to. He got scared. We tried to talk him down. He lost his balance and his hind legs were hanging and swinging in mid-air. It was 8am, so Pablo, Theresa and I were all present. We grabbed a beach towel and caught him as he fell. He was humiliated and sat in the corner staring at the wall for a few hours, but he survived. He has not gone higher than the first branch since that day. His favorite pastime is playing soccer with Pablo. Mokito drops his Coke bottle cap at Pablo’s feet and then runs and slides around the pasta tiled floor in chase. He is a smart cat, just not a strong climber.

His sister Lorenza was the next one to climb so high she was afraid to come down. She got stuck during exercise class also. (8-9am seems to be exercise hour for humans and animals.) I thought for sure she could get down, but she started losing her balance. Pablo brought the ladder and set it on top of the pool filter “casita”, which stands about 5 ft. off the ground. He then climbed to the top step of the ladder, grabbed Lorenza, and dropped her gently into our beach towel trampoline.

A few days later Sak Boox was missing. I heard her crying but I could not find her. She had gotten up on the wall, walked around to the neighbor’s house, and jumped on to our roof. This is a trick she learned from the big cats. She was locked out on the roof which is completely fenced in. I followed the mews and there she was, waiting for me to open the locked gate. She enjoyed that activity so much she repeated it two days later.

When feeding time comes and goes and Busmo doesn’t appear, he’s missing. He is a cat who likes to eat. One day last week he was nowhere to be found. We searched all the hiding places we know about, inside and out, but to no avail. Finally I heard a faint meow and followed it upstairs. We was hiding in the guest room. I looked up there but did not find him. He must have had a great hiding place. He had apparently just awoken from his nap and was just asking to be let out. He is more independent than his siblings, and I imagine he would like to live upstairs alone. When we go upstairs to hang laundry, we often open the door to the bedroom there to give it some air. Now I know Busmo can often be found stretched out asleep on the bed.

Just when everyone had gotten over their traumatic adventures, we called the vet to have the kittens all fixed. Dr. Ruben came and swooped them all up quickly. Moka was asleep. When she got up her babies were gone! She was very upset. We tried to convince her they would be back and everyone would live happily ever after, but she wasn’t buying it. Two days passed and the kitties came home. They were upset and nervous on the ride with Dr. Ruben and they pissed all over themselves. Mokito took it the worst. Since he had some toilet training trouble in his early days, he has been in the sink several times, and it was not too difficult to give him a quick bath. He still stinks, three days later as I write this, but not as bad as when they came home from surgery. I didn’t bathe the others on the doctor’s orders. The air was very cold and he did not want them to get sick. I had already given Mokito a rinse off when I stopped long enough to listen to the good doctor. We are letting the stink wear off, and I am washing everything in the house today.

The kitties are all doing very well recuperating. Lorenza is already removing her stitches, but she seems to be healing. One problem was that Moka did not like the way they smelled when they came back and she hissed at them for two days. That hurt their feelings, and they were already experiencing their first real pain. They are now reunited and a happy family again. Moka and Buster have been assisting with the major odor clean up needed.

Two days ago I woke up and saw MomCat outside next to the pool….with one of her kittens. She is Siamese and we think might be Moka’s Mom. I don’t know exactly when she started hanging around, but long enough to notice she has a tendency to either be pregnant or nursing kittens all the time. We spotted two little gray kitties on the roof next door, and then we never saw them again. She seems to be capable of having abandoned Moka at my gate, but they may have worked things out between them since then, because Moka will share her space and food with MomCat. But bringing kittens, that was the last straw. By the end of the day there were three of them hiding in my clothes closet, and I found MomCat comfortably lounging on Buster’s blanket on top of the bed. We caught one of the kittens and put it in the cat carrier. He settled down, and ate and drank. Pablo went out for a while that night and when he returned, I was asleep. He saw the other two kittens in the room and asked me, “So, are you ready to hunt kittens?” And I continued to sleep as things flew around during his cat and human game. When I got up there were three adorable, but dirty, kittens in the carrier. We brushed them and clipped their nails. They were adorable long haired kittens, probably the work of Gemelo. One looked just like him.

Gemelo's gemelo, Gemelito.

By this time I was very upset. There was simply NO WAY we could take on three more kittens. Until this happened I thought my cat karma level was pretty good. I was trying to be a responsible cat owner, if an excessive one, with six house cats. Add to that Buster’s friends Cuate, Gemelo, Gris and Lorenzo who come in from the other side to eat and play.
To some, these may be a lot of words to update the cat life here, but what can I say? I love the cats. It broke my heart to see the 3 baby kittens staring up at me from a cage with those captivating innocent eyes. Watching MomCat pace around her kittens in a cage was equally upsetting. Last night we formulated a plan. We would capture MomCat , reunite her with the kittens overnight in the carrier, and they could all move out to “el terreno” (Pablo’s lot where we are building bodegas) in San Pedro Nohpat.
Kittens in a cage.

The capture was more difficult than any of the previous experiences of the week. We closed MomCat in the bedroom, where the plan was to envelop her in two bed sheets. Unfortunately, Buster, Busmo and Negro were also in the room. Buster freaked out. I managed to open the window so he could get out, and I shooed out the others. MomCat let out some blood curdling yowls, and although Pablo wasn’t hurting her, you’d have thought someone was being murdered. All the cats (and I think the neighbors!) were awestruck. Pablo finally won the battle. He got her safely caged with the three kitties. The four of them spent the night in the tiny cat carrier. This morning we took the stinky but quiet mess out to the property with some food. We left them to be the caretakers of EL TERRENO. I know it doesn’t sound like the perfect solution, but it is the best we could do. I cannot kill animals. Pablo’s terreno is outside of town. We are certain that there are field mice, lizards, humans needing pets, etc. The Yucatecans like animals and will feed them, but they are equally likely to tire of them and just leave them to go wild….which is how we ended up with an entire commando. All I wanted was to have Buster. And today I hope he is not afraid of us because of what he heard and saw last night. I hope the cats’ keen senses of smell tell them we did not hurt the intruders. I don’t need bad cat karma. But I cannot adopt all the orphaned cats in Mexico.
El terreno, new home of MomCat and her kittens.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

¡Viva La Revolución!

Today is the 98th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Mérida has a three hour parade every 20th of November. Last year I couldn't get too many good photos because it was at night and my camera wasn't very good. This time I have a new easier-to-use Olympus and the parade started at 8am. I took way too many photos, as usual. Over a hundred schools participate, with stern faced flag bearers, marching bands, pom pom girls, soccer teams, dance troupes and karate classes. The low riders, vintage VWs, bikers, police and fire departments put on shows in the middle of the street. They mimic rescues and takedowns; they jump through fire hoops and make human pyramids. They do wheelies and rev their engines and squeal their tires. It is a lot of fun to watch. ¡Viva la revolución!

Progreso or Puerto Yucatán?

This is the port of Progreso, 30 miles north of Mérida. Once a sleepy fishing village, it now boasts a population of around 50,000. The photo above was taken on Friday, November 15, 2008 at 11am. It was a beautiful day with the sky and the Gulf of México dueling for the deepest shades of blue.

This is Puerto Yucatán. Progreso takes on a new name and personality on cruise ship days. The cruise ships use made up names for their ports of call. As you can see, vendors line the streets, tourists walk, talk and gawk. This photo was taken in August, 2007. Mexican Nationals also flock to Progreso during the summer vacation months.

Looking down the sea wall, or malecon, from east to west. In the distance you can see the 7 km pier. It is so long you need binoculars to see how many ships might be out at its dock.

The cake house. This is the former beach home of famous Mexican actor/singer Pedro Infante.
I look at this house and wonder, why would you build a giant cake for a house? Sometimes we just sit across the street and stare at it. Was the designer on mushrooms or acid?
We often go to Eladio's Restaurant pbecause they have live music in the afternoons, they bring us a variety of tasty botana (snacks like fish ceviche, refried beans, guacamole, salsa, cucumber salad, potato salad, pumpkin seed salsa, kibis, taquitos, etc...), the Negra Modelos are icy cold, and the whole fried fish is fresh and delicious. At Eladio's they cater to the cruise ship crowd, so you can always find Chiapan girls selling clothing. Rosa, above, was a friendly Tzotzil girl from San Juan Chamula, who sold us some new cotton shirts and allowed me to photograph her. We also bought some pirated DVDs from a vendor who was trying to learn a few words of English. "I have the best movies in English," he finally managed to pronounce and remember. Then he sold us Madagascar 2 (which was in Russian!) and a few other new releases. Most of the DVDs have actual recordings, and only once did I get one that was filmed in the theater with the people coughing and/or walking around.

Nothing like fresh mero (grouper) or hogfish (boquinete) seaside. One of my favorite meals.

Doesn't Pablo have a beautiful smile? Well, he is looking over the rail at the scene below. It was a relaxing, peaceful brunch. We like to go to Progreso often just to breathe the salt air and feel the cooling Gulf breeze.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fashion Photos

My previous article, Theresa's ( photo posts, and this final entry should pretty much cover the fashion show.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hats and Fashion

The International Women's Club of Mérida held a fashion show event last night, Nov11, 2008. I was on the planning committee. We began with a cocktail party with delicious brochettes and fresh mango, tamarind, strawberry, and assorted dacquiries. There were plenty of door prizes awarded. Other than the exquisite fashions of Martín Lopez, the highlight of the evening was the hat contest. It was amazing how many people and women. The Galería de Arte La Luz provided a comfortable and elegant background. We had our challenging moments, but a delightful time was had by all.

Marianne (Left) was the coordinator of the show, although I was her right hand person so to speak. The lady on the right won one of three prizes in the hat contest. Hers was chosen the most elegant. The prizes for best hats were gift certificates toward Martin's fashions.

Harriet made a very elegant hat and must have been in contention for a winning entry! She's a card. Harriet volunteers at the Mérida English Language Library, and is a Dead Head.

This hat won the most original award. It is created on top of an African mask, is made with natural fibers, and patterned after a tribal African design. It was unique!

These hats did not win but they were fun.

Neighbor Theresa. She coordinated the hat contest. She made her hat, her dress, her purse, the pumpkin table decoration in her hand. We are all disappointed she slacked and did not make her own shoes. Oh well, maybe next time if she doesn't have to make all the decorations and coordinate the hat contest she will have time to cobble. I thought Theresa's hat was fantastic.

Here I am holding the table decorations that I made. I do not wear hats, but I wear flowers. I made a hakulei from the neighbors' plumeria and carnations. This yellow dress is wild, but it was a fun purchase from Bali I do not have much opportunity to wear. Same with the foot long yellow beaded earrings.

I made the hakulei the night before with the help of six cats. They love raffia.

One of the fabrics Martín used in many of his designs.

I liked this action shot. Too bad about Tom's head in front of me.

Little blurry, but this is Vilma, one of the IWC member models. Martín says he can make anyone look good in his clothes. Vilma was a star attraction.

Our other model, Debi and her husband Tom taking her photos. She looked great in Martín's designs also. It was fun to have two of our members modeling. I don't know how much fun it was for them, with the fittings, rehearsals, and dealing with the rather large ego of the designer and the models.

This is Erika. She was Miss Mexico a few years ago. She is gorgeous but I was unable to get a good shot of her. At this point we are into evening wear. Shiny solids, bright colors.

Current art display at La Luz Gallery. These are paintings of a variety of Mérida doors. There are some incredible, and huge! old doors on these colonial homes. It is a beautiful collection. La Luz Gallery is worth a visit if you are in Mérida. It is across from Santa Ana Park on Calle 60.
All in all UNA NOCHE DE OTOÑO (A night of autumn) was a success. The committee I worked with organizing the event was fantastic. I am sorry I could not include all their photos and say something nice about each of them. We are looking forward to planning a bigger and better event next year and now we have some inside tips! Thanks to all.